ZURICH-KLOTEN – Hannes Hyvönen scored the shootout winner after 65 minutes of end-to-end, tough hockey in Kloten to give Finland a 4-3 victory. However, Canada still finishes in top spot in Group F and will play the fourth place team from Group E, Latvia, while Finland takes on Team USA.
"We got off to a good start and tried to play their game," Niklas Hagman observed. "They have a lot of skilled forwards who don't like to play in their end, so we tried to shoot from everywhere and keet the puck in their end."
The white of Canada played the blue of Finland tonight, but by the end of Finland’s 4-3 win both teams were black and bruised from the hard-fought contest. So much for calling this a throw-away game in the Qualification Round schedule.
"If there was a game to lose, this was it," Canadian captain Shane Doan said. "It gives us fire in the belly for the next game. We have to battle every shift, and we didn't do that tonight."
Finland opened the scoring at 4:02 thanks to some good forechecking and forcing a turnover along the boards in the Canadian end. Sami Kapanen got the puck and drove to the net before passing behind the play to Tuomas Pihlman, who drilled a quick wrist shot over the glove of Dwayne Roloson. The goal marked the first time in the tournament (six games) that Canada has trailed at any moment.
The goal gave the Finns confidence, but the more they stepped up the tempo the more the Canadians responded. The result was several minutes of end-to-end action with plenty of good scoring chances and fine goaltending.
Then, at 7:54, the Finns got a second goal when Anssi Salmela’s weak wrist shot from the point fooled Roloson to give Suomi an early 2-0 lead.
The game turned nasty on several occasions as players from both sides hit hard and pushed and shoved after the whistle. One such scrum resulted in a Canadian power play at 15:11, and the top-scoring team in the tournament responded when Jason Spezza smartly banked the puck off goalie Pekka Rinne from behind the end red line.
The second period saw fewer scoring chances, but the intensity rose several notches as play got more and more physical. Canada, however, ran into penalty trouble several times, taking senseless penalties that prevented it from building on Spezza’s earlier goal.
In all, Canada took six minors to Finland’s three, but even when the Finns had a lengthy five-on-three, the Canadian penalty killers did their job and kept the game 2-1. Finally, however, Doan took his third minor penalty of the period and Niko Kapanen slid the puck between Roloson’s pads to restore the two-goal lead for Finland.
Canada came right back on its second power play of the period as Derek Roy made a great pass in the slot to Dany Heatley and his quick redirect beat Rinne to the far side to make it 3-2.
The period ended on a nasty note. After a whistle with just two seconds left on the clock, Jarkko Ruutu pushed Steve Stamkos, who responded with a crosscheck. Ruutu fell to the ice as if shot and lay there for several minutes, but both players were assessed minors by the referees and Ruutu was back in perfect working order for the third period.
That set the stage for the final period of hockey in Kloten for this 2009 World Championship. Canada came out like gangbusters and dominated the play, generating scoring chances with plenty of hitting and an aggressive forecheck. This work created a power play midway through the period, and again the extra man clicked for Canada. This time it was Dany Heatley in the slot firing a shot that Rinne got a piece of before finding the back of the net. Tie game with just over half a period to play.
"We scored early, but they battled back," Hagman said. "Give them credit. Their special teams are very good."
Knowing that his team had to win in regulation to finish first in the group, Finnish coach Jukka Jalonen pulled Rinne with about 30 seconds to go. The ploy didn't get a goal, but it did create a power play to start the overtime after Matthew Lombardi was called for high-sticking at 19:53.
Canada killed off the penalty, and neither team could score in the five-minute extra period, setting up the shootout heroics which went to 14 total shots. Martin St. Louis and Ruutu both took three shots and scored twice.
"We're a better team now," Roloson said after. "We faced some adversity tonight, and that will serve us well for the rest of the tournament."